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Tobacco Hornworm Moth (Manduca sexta)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Tobacco Hornworm Moth.

 Updated: 10/12/2018; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.InsectIdentification.org




Tobacco Hornworm Moth has a destructive plant-based diet that goes beyond the tobacco plant.



Tobacco Hornworm Moth Videos



A Tobacco Hornworm eating away a leaf on a tomato plant


The 'horn' on the Tobacco Hornworm's rear end


Parasitic wasp eggs inundating a Tobacco Hornworm

The name of the Tobacco Hornworm Moth partially stems from its caterpillar form. The green bodied, chubby, hairless caterpillar has a reddish-brown horn-like projection at the end of it. It also has black and white diagonal stripes running diagonally from its back down the sides, each ending with an eyespot. While these caterpillars eat tobacco plants, they also attack the foliage of potato and tomato plants. They are considered huge pests in agricultural and backyard garden communities. They have voracious appetites and can lay waste to healthy tomato plants in just a few days, devouring leaves and stems with ease. Watch how quickly one caterpillar can consume plant tissue here:

The head of the caterpillar is rounded with the mouth underneath. It does not need to make large, sweeping movements in order to chew down a leaf. The tail end of the caterpillar, by contrast, is quite active, frequently dabbing stems and branches, often leaving deposits of green feces. This behavior may trick predators into believing that it is the head. Losing a bit of flesh on the back end might not mean imminent death for the caterpillar. The spiky projection on that end may aid in thwarting attacks by a bird or small mammal.

Tobacco Hornworms, as the caterpillars are called, resemble Tomato Hornworms. Both caterpillars are hairless and green with plump bodies and have spiky 'horns' at their rear. The Tobacco Hornworm, however, has seven white diagonal stripes while the Tomato Hornworm has eight white V-shaped stripes. The caterpillars are often used by certain species of wasp to feed young. Female wasps lay white eggs, which resemble large grains of rice, on the backs of the helpless caterpillar. These eggs hold wasp pupae that will feed on the living caterpillar, slowly killing it as they grow and develop. See what a Tobacco Hornworm looks like when heavily infested by clicking here:

Adults are called 'tobacco flies' even though they are moths. They are most active from midsummer to late autumn. Adults drink the nectar from honeysuckle and petunia flowers. The Tobacco Hornworm Moth has six pairs of yellow (or orange) spots on of its furry abdomen. The wings are hairy and mostly mottled patches of brown and black save for a bit a yellow on the forewings.




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Sphingidae
          Genus: Manduca
            Species: sexta
Identifying Information
Scientific Name: Manduca sexta
Other Name(s): Tobacco Fly, Carolina Sphinx Moth, Six-Spotted Sphinx Moth
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 90mm to 115mm (3.51in to 4.49in)
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black; gray; brown; white
Descriptors: flying, harmful
Territorial Map
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
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Territorial Reach (A-to-Z)
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming
Canadian National Flag Graphic
Alberta
British Columbia
Manitoba
New Brunswick
Newfoundland and Labrador
Nova Scotia
Ontario
Prince Edward Island
Quebec
Saskatchewan
Mexican National Flag Graphic
Mexico
Note: An insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.




Butterfly and Moth Anatomy
Graphic showing basic anatomy of a common North American butterfly and moth insect
1
Antennae: Butterflies and Moths have a pair of antennae on the head used as sensors.
2
Head: The head is home to the insect's eyes, antennae, and proboscis.
3
Thorax: Home to the three pairs of legs as well as vital internal organs.
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Abdomen: Contains vital internal organs such as the heart(s) and reproduction facilities.
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Forewing: The upper, forward wing pair used for flying.
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Hindwing: The lower, rearward wing pair used for flying.
NOTE: Butterflies and Moths are part of the Lepidopteran order as they share many similarities.